Friday, March 30, 2012

Notable Workplace Trends

   The high performing workplace, like the complicated world we live, work and play in is isn’t necessarily simple to achieve.  Such a workplace reflects the need to soundly integrate work processes, physical settings and furniture along with technology in service to the overall business needs of the organization and its larger mission.  It’s also hard work and demands constant organizational engagement over time.
     Rather than talk about the workplace of the future, a term routinely used over the last forty years, we believe it’s important to focus on creating and cultivating workplaces which promote collaboration, innovation and a sense of entrepreneurship aligning with an organization’s mission, brand and values.
     The following trends are vital to consider in the coming years in the design of the enduring high performing workplace.   They are adapted from a number of sources as well as our own experience.
  1. Integrated workplace solutions:  Integration of architecture, interiors, operational processes, branding, information technology, furniture and office systems.  Bring a comprehensive and collaborative approach to the design challenge.
  2. Sustainability Action: More direct integration of sustainability concerns in workplace design, ongoing operations reinforces employee engagement and brand strength.  Also supports lower operational costs through energy efficiency, resource conservation.
  3. Branding & Storytelling: Tell the bigger story! Work to reflect organization wide core values, history and brand promise in physical design of your building, your work space, furniture, finish and color selection along with media and wall graphics.  Create a seamless experience from bricks and mortar to online.
  4. Motivation, Opportunity, Inclusiveness: It’s not about carrots and sticks, but motivating employee’s sense of purpose, desire for advancement and organizational engagement, all helping in attracting and retaining quality staff. Workplace design echoes and amplifies the strengths of a diverse workforce in reinforcing employee engagement.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Advanced Social Media Workshop Tips and Tricks from the VTSBDC and e-commerce vermont

Pat Ripley, presenter from e-commerce VT
     This morning I'm at an advanced social media workshop presented by Pat Ripley, State Broadband Adviser and e-commerce liason to the VtSBDC.  He provides workshops like this around the state to large and small communities helping Vermont businesses with their web presence, social media and media marketing efforts.
      We're located in the beautiful TW Wood Gallery at the VCFA on the Vermont College campus.  Pat's sharing both basics and best practices for small and large businesses to work with sites such as facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIN, Hootsuite, Google + among many.
      Sitting in the audience are business people running retail businesses, service firms, small and large non-profits all seeking to learn and energize their social media activity.  I'm here because I'm a self-admitted social media explorer.  I tend to try out new services, be an early adopter and spread myself thin with less focus than maybe is helpful.  I'm here to find more coherence in my business strategy.
     So in the space of the first 45 mins we've done an overview of the social media universe, how old style "Push style" advertising where businesses push out via traditional media with advertising where you're telling people about your business versus "Pull Style" interactions where relationships matter.  Pat's mantra is it's all about building and maintaining relationships whatever the media source.  He shared data people trust advertising 14% of the time while personal recommendations and referrals garner something like 90% or more of the time.  People trust other people's opinions.
     For me this resonates with my belief of how I try to work with various social media sites.  Rather than blindly voice updates about how cool and great your business is it's a lot more engaging, fun and real if you share information you actually find compelling which other's might enjoy or find useful.  It's the cosmic bank, where sharing and giving is intrinsic to success.
So it's all about relationships and creating quality interactions.  Not quantity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Workplace, Innovation and Technology; A Trio of New York Times Articles

Two different friends (Thanks Dave and Chris!) involved in creating and cultivating work communities and workplaces here in VT mentioned I would enjoy reading some articles from last Sunday's New York Times. 

Sunday's Business section had a big spread on workplace, innovation and grappling with a technology overloaded world.  I suggest you find 20 mins of quality away time to peruse them. It'll be well worth your while. You'll learn how Google, DreamWorks and General Electric innovate with their workplaces.  

Whether you're considering renovating, adding or building out your workplace, unifying your brand messaging while building a stronger work community or all three and more, this is a must read moment! 

Creating choices of workspace and amplifying engagement was a key takeaway for me among many. It'a about providing your work community a wide range of choices of work spaces, moving beyond the 8x8 cube into a range of formal meeting rooms of various sizes, smaller 1-3 person away spaces such as phone booths or just in time rooms, then on to more informal "backyard" areas with a collection of easy chairs or sofas, mobile white boards and places to put coffee cups and snacks the fuel seeding innovation and collaboration. 

As these articles so eloquently share and our experiences working with clients show, plan on a lot more informal meeting area, collaboration spaces, away spaces while allocating less square footage for dedicated or non dedicated workstations. Perhaps 50/50 or 60/40 ratios accordingly. 15 years ago it was more like 20/80 or 30/70, but not any more. The new normal is to provide more choices in the workspace, there by cultivating innovation, collaboration and creativity. 

Today's tactical everyday business needs shift with evolution of mobile technology, collaborative surfaces, tele-phresence and cloud computing. Adaptive, flexible workspace along with quiet high focus large and small spaces are essential to building effective high performing, engaged work communities. The NBBJ designed Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle directly related to the specifics of the business needs of their team and supporting getting the work done as effectively as possible while also supporting vastly different work style and collaboration needs.

Design for flexibility and plan for change from the get go. It means considering using movable architectural wall products which like workstation furniture can adapt to fast changing business and organizational needs where sizes, numbers and types of spaces may rapidly shift over the course of 3-5 years. Investing in metal stud, drywall and glass side lites may be more affordable at move-in but severely diminishes future flexibility for rapid adaption to organizational change.

And that workstation may not need to be as big as it used to be. With digital technologies and paperless transactions more normal than ever workstation storage demands are much less than five or ten years ago. And the sizes of stations are shrinking to fit the reduced paper needs while providing desk space for 1 to 2 additional monitors to facilitate paperless work. 

Anyway, I digress away from the big picture the New York Times presents in their suite of Sunday Business articles. Focus on providing choice and flexibility to enhance work community engagement coupled with three dimensional branding which resonates with core company mission, values and messaging.